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Getting Things Done: After a year in site, things are finally going smoothly and developing quite nicely.  I can’t believe that a year has already passed… Recently I have become a garden master, not bad for a city boy.  I have successfully emplaced gardens in the community schools of Lavadel, Lun, the highschool and health center of Gualleturo, and in Gulag Bajo.  I of course didn’t accomplish all of this all by my lonesome.  Without the help of the parents of the school children, the teachers and the Ecuadorian organizations of the Ministry of Agriculture and Ecuadorian Food Security, I am sure the land would still be overgrown with weeds.  The goal of the gardens is to promote organic gardening and with the seed beds parents can transplant the vegetables in their own home gardens promoting well-balanced nutrition and knowing that the community members are not eating chemically treated foods.  What threw me for a great surprise was that the first Peace Corps Volunteer in my site in the 60’s actually promoted the use of chemicals (so I have been told)!! And they are just now weaning off of them after seeing the effects.

But not all is work, work, and work.  I still have plenty of time to read and to enjoy the country of Ecuador during the weekends.  Recently, my friend Lauren made a trip down and I took my first official vacation days to travel to places that I would never have gone (or been able to go to) in a weekend.  We enjoyed all the major areas of Ecuador, the coast with gorgeous beaches, the abundant waterfalls in the mountains and even a little tour of the jungle…and there is still so much more to see.

A Week in the Life: This week has been quite eventful, just like every week in site.  I find it sinful to be bored and unproductive.

Monday: I hitchhike in a milk truck to the community of Chiglidel (about a 45 minute bumpy ride) to teach basic hygiene and some basic English to the children.  After class one of the parents invited me to his finca (a large property where there is generally fruit and other cultivations).  I of course went.  It was about a 2 hour hike down to the base of the mountain and then winding westward through hills passing through the abandoned community of Zhurun.  Houses and a nearly brand new school are left vacant… Anyway, we arrived and they gave me a tour of their orange groves, and rows of corn.  I helped pick and shuck the corn while my host climbed orange trees to knock out the delicious fruit.  We enjoyed some fresh oranges then hiked further in to meet his friend who produces the now illegal cane-alcohol.  It is illegal at the moment because 25 people died of methanol poisoning in another province.  This stuff was fresh out of the distiller, so we mixed it with guarapo (which is delicious freshly squeezed cane juice, extracted by a large, crushing machine). The mixture of cane juice and alcohol is called mapanagua.  We enjoyed a few drinks and talked until the sun began to set.  There was no possible way for me to make it back to Gualleturo which would have been about a 3 hour hike to the road and then a wait for a 30 minute truck ride which quite possibly would never come.  I was invited to stay with the family and we made an hour and a half trek to his house which was straight uphill traversing in the pitch black of the night stumbling through mud and climbing loose, rocky footpaths.  I spoke with the family in the kitchen of their mud-brick home for a couple of hours and then they showed me the bed they cleared for me (I felt bad as always when a family crowds into a single bed while I get one to myself…I tried to sleep on the mud floor but they weren’t having any of that).  I love the Ecuadorian people.  They always offer what little they have even to a random, goofy looking gringo.

Tuesday: After a decent night’s rest I woke up once the sun rose.  I ate some breakfast with the family and accompanied the children to the school of Chiglidel.  I rested there for a couple of hours, ate an early lunch with the teachers, then made my way walking in the beating sun to the community of Lavadel to teach.  I taught my classes then hitchhiked to Gualleturo and finally made it back to my home by about 3pm.   I walked in the house to discover it an all-out disaster zone.  The kitchen had dirty pots and pans everywhere, my bed had been slept in and not made up and there was some sort of liquid smearage on my floor…and some unkown party had drank almost all of my 3 liters of cane alcohol that was gifted to me to take back to the states.  Luckily, I am a very patient person and just shrugged it off like any other troublesome time I face here in Ecuador.  I found out that a traveling medical brigade was in the Parroquia of Gualleturo and had a great time the night before.  I am friends with all of them, so no worries.

Wednesday: A trip with the medical brigade to the community of Gulag Bajo.  They were scheduled to visit a community named Enen which is situated lower than Gulag in the mountain but it was blocked by a recent landslide.  In order to reach the patient in Enen the doctor and I were lead by the child’s mother by way of an old horse trail to the community.  The views were stunning (as always) overlooking mountain range after mountain range and the endless sea of clouds westward which are the heavens of the coast.  We made it to the house, the doctor prepped, viewed the stitching from the surgery (job well done) and extracted the stitches.  The young man had problems with the veins in his groin, he went too long without treatment and the accumulated pockets of water ruptured one of his testicles which had to be removed.  We made sure the incision healed nicely, which it did indeed. The return hike was a brutal 70  constant incline in the beating hot sun but luckily after 30 minutes we encountered the Parroquia president cruising around in an SUV.  They did a turn-around and took us to the site of the enormous landslide.  Another truck was waiting at the other side to take us back to Gulag Bajo.  Needless to say we had to cross the god-forsaken landslide.  I was extremely hesitant at first but the Pres said that he would prove that it was safe by going over first.  I followed directly behind.  The first 20 feet or so was perfectly fine, no big deal….until the dirt and small rocks became exponentially more loose.  Shit.  I looked down tracing the tumbling rocks all the way to the river below, hundreds of feet.  I imagined myself taking the next step, loosening the already loose earth under my feet and sliding all the way down, arms spread out to produce the most friction possible so as not to barrel roll to my demise.  Not a good thought.  The Pres shook me out of it and I very shakily made it to the other side.  I personally would have rather tread the steep incline until Gulag Bajo….But I am still safe and sound.  We made it back to Gulag and I observed the doc taking care of the patients.  The one that stuck out the most was a man who nearly electric-sawed off his toe 2 months ago constructing a house.  He had a surgery to put it back together but it still has yet to fill in the 2 inches of gap.  I am pretty sure even some of the bone is still visible.  Ouch.  After attending the patients I played some Ecua volley against the locals with the doc and the mobile unit driver and needlessly to say we dominated :P  I then invited one of the parents of the Gulag Bajo kids for a beer, chatted with him for a while then made it back to Gualleturo in time to make dinner.  After dinner my stomach was a-rumbling.  Can’t be good.  I slept very little and made trips to the bathroom every 30 minutes to an hour during the late night hours.

Thursday (Today):  Awakened out of my not-so-resting ‘sleep’, I decided to read a good portion of Steinbeck’s East of Eden before I showered and attempted to eat breakfast with the medical brigade.  Wasn’t hungry in the slightest… especially after finding a pinky-length, skinny, white worm shoot out of where it had no business being…I Called the Peace Corps Medical Office and remembered that they are ALL in the USofA for a conference.  A replacement doctor called me shortly thereafter and prescribed me a treatment and all I could do was wait to leave site on Friday to travel to the nearest pharmacy which is about 2.5 hours away in bus.  My stomach is so bloated I look like a mal-nourished child.  I generally hike to Gulag Bajo on Thursdays to teach but since I was there yesterday I made up my Wednesday Lun day after I finished up my last 2 classes in Lavadel.  I now lay in my health center bed writing this little article and am thinking of the sweet, sweet medicines that destroy my intestines but at the same time kill the worm-like parasites.  Tomorrow is going to be good.  I plan on planting a seed bank in the health center with the school children of Gualleturo, then directly after heading out with the teacher from Chiglidel to see his home in the Province of Cotopaxi, which is the home of a great mountain and excellent organic strawberries.  Perhaps we will camp under the grandeur of the mountain and go fishing.  Only time will tell what fate has in store for me.

Just wanted to let you all know that I am and everything is fine here in Ecuador.  I only wish the water supplies weren’t so contaminated.  Other than that I am foot-loose, fancy-free and full of jubilee.

P.S. I will be in the states in under a month now! Very, very excited.

Until next time,

With much love from the misty mountains of Ecuador,

Mitchell ‘Andariego’ Adams

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Riddled with Failures – I now know what the Peace Corps recruiters meant by, “You will experience FAILURE throughout your service.”  Oh no, what happened Mitchy boy you may be asking yourself… Well let me begin with the community bank debacle.  In short, it failed after the first community meeting, the people lacked interest and the general terms of the bank didn’t set well with the público presente.  I tried to start one up in the community of Gruta Pelte with the help of Don José (Don José went with me to the banking workshop inQuito and he is very good at explaining everything).  I chose this community because it is súper close and the community members are generally workers for the land/cattle owners.  The workers for these land owners are by far the most exploited in this little corner of the world….They take in maybe $60 MONTHLY at best working EVERY DAY milking the cows and taking care of the land (the suelto básico, or ‘minimum wage,’ here in Ecuador is about $240, más o menos).

Moving on to the next failure… A community wide Abono Orgánico (organic compost)  project in the community of Gulag Bajo.  I set up an organic compost bin in the far corner of the Subcentro complex with my own meager funds.  It wouldn’t have been possible though without the help of a very kind man named Don Eulogio from the community of Gulag Bajo.  He volunteered his time and some resources to make this possible.  He even drove to a friend’s worm farm to pick up about 1,000 earthworms (the best damn composters on the planet).  The bin is working well, so I wanted to implement them in the  community of Don Eulogio (through the aid of a SPA grant) to turn it more green and to boost the awareness and production of community gardens.  A SPA grant is assistance for small projects (free gov’t money), the only kicker is that it must promote bio-diversity.  My project definitely met this standard, but then I was told that I must “fix the trash problem in Gualleturo before I would get approval.”  Oh yes, let me get right on that… My community is located roughly an hour away from a paved road (being the highway) descending one mountain, crossing a river and ascending yet another on a single lane dirt road and the community of Ducur that is located ON the highway with direct access to municipal services dump their trash down the nearby mountainside. If anyone has any ideas how to fix the trash problem feel free to let me know.

Yeah yeah, enough with the Debbie Downer news.  Moving on to:

Falling Even More in Love (with Ecuador) – I have been pretty busy since my last post, without the aid of my daily journal I would definitely be at a loss, I am a hard man to keep up with.  Let’s talk a little about Carnaval and what that entails in my community.  Well, since everybody knows each other in my little village things are slightly more wild than in a big city, or any other place in Ecuador I imagine basing what other volunteers and Ecuadorians reported.  In some parts everything is banned to play with… but  I experienced a full three days of play.  In Gualleturo the people play with water (of course) a scented foam spray, cooking oil, various powdery substances including machica, flour and dyes, eggs,(which also mix great with oil, flour and water for the purpose of smearing entire faces) mud and one night the family that I was with used pig grease, chocolate powder and who knows what else they found in the kitchen.  Around midday the community pool is also utilized for swimming, washing and throwing in the unfortunate into the icy cold water.  Noone works during these days and the people dedicate themselves to play, drink, and food.  Might have to bring this holiday back with me…

Other Travels: St. Patty’s day on a Finca in Ayacucho, A Sexual Education Taller in Guayaquil, Horseback Riding Adventure in Dug Dug, Coffee picking in El Airo very near the Peruvian border.

St. Patty’s: A coalition of Gringos and Ecuadorians met up to celebrate the art of drinking green beer in a multitude of ways on a beautiful resort-like finca.  11 hours of travel one-way definitely worth it.  I slept in a tent (mattress included!) and the next day hiked to a beautiful waterfall.

The Sex Ed Taller:  I was invited for a 3 day pasantilla by the director of the Red Cross Guayaquil (the counterpart of my good friend ‘Big Mike’ Close) to cover HIV/AIDS and prevention.  Who would have known that it would include the most explicit condom demonstration on the planet given by the director himself…I would go into more details, but I will just say that I was blown away.

Magical Dug Dug:  A fellow Peace Corps volunteer Clint had a birthday and a new project of horseback tourism invited us for a free day of riding and afterwards a meal, who could ask for more?  I bonded with our guides with the aid of whiskey sent to me by my good Floridian friend JT, and they welcomed me back whenever I want.  Super Buena gente and the views from the top of the mountain were incredible…I will definitely be back

Coffee Farming Down South: Two volunteers have put together an eco-tourism program that is called ‘CoffeeWorks’ and I went with my friend Julie and her brother Seth to give it a test drive.  It took 14 hours to arrive, but again valió la pena (it was well worth it).  I learned how coffee is grown and produced, planted a couple of trees, harvested some yucca, picked some oranges and coffee beans, stayed with an incredible host family filled with curious, adorable children and went on an awesome hike to an immense waterfall with a single palm tree stoically standing at the top.

In short, I LOVE this country and its people.

On to the Mitch At Work Section:

Overwhelmed (and Overjoyed) – I recently began a very progressive sexual education program in the Colegio of Gualleturo.  I have each class for 2 hours each week for 6 whole weeks.  These kiddos will be learning a thing or two.  Mondays and Tuesdays are dedicated to this while Wednesdays and Thursdays I hitchhike down the mountainside to teach English, hygiene, nutrition (and who knows what else in the future) in a community called Lavadel.  This week I also helped clear land with the parents of the school children to create a school garden.  In June I will help the community of Lun in health education and a garden as well.  The best part is that all of these programs were requested and I have the full support of the communities…an incredible thing and a blessing for a Peace Corps Volunteer I might add.  Now I am constantly busy planning charlas and materials for my classes and being in the schools that I am no longer feeling that I am not reaching my potential in my service.  Wish me luck for the coming weeks and months!

Now on to the Final Chapter, Why are you telling us things that I really don’t want to hear about your personal life?  Vamos.

Medical Update (why not?) – Before Carnaval I had the worst stomach issues to date here in Ecuador.  Yes, it was worse than my 2 day stint with Giardia due to the fact that it lasted for about 2 weeks. One sleepless evening I lied in bed with a fever, then the waterworks began.  I lost all apetite, everything that I ate and drank passed in record time.  I lost my campo-food belly, and it has yet to return.  The stool sample verified that I had an intestinal infection with amoebas and a little mucous in the stool.  Yummy.

Well that is all that I have for now, wish me luck and thanks for reading!

Until next time,

The longer I stay in this quiet mountain village of mine, the more I grow to like it. Sometimes I feel like I was placed in the village most equivalent to Austin in Ecuador, due to the funk factor of the festivals here. The last 2 were the 22nd of December and the 6th of January. Both of these events involved dressing up in costume or in drag! (if you don’t know me this is by far one of my most favorite activites on the planet), but only one involved a church service.

 

22 December – I was invited to see the local school children dress in a wide variety of costumes including dressing in drag, as Winnie the Poo, the 3 kings, shepherds, cowboys, clowns, black-face, military personnel, gangsters, indigenous farmers, ninjas, santas, children with fake cigs and jet packs, and of course angels in mini skirts. They had a small parade down the main street and all filed in to church. But why!? Tradition! Good enough answer for me. I wonder what my old Catholic priests would say if we showed up in women’s clothing or any of the above for mass…

 

6 January – My favorite event in my city so far… Why? Oh, I’ll tell you why. There are men and adolescent boys wearing demonic masks and women’s clothing if desired (I wore a dress) and the main objective of the day is to cause as much mischief as possible. The men folk also drink quite a bit as well of course. Also, the entire village is under lock and key. If a family fails to close their homestead fully things might go missing temporarily, or you might just be thrown into the cold, fresh mud conveniently located 3 ft in front of your front door. If you do NOT want to be thrown into the mud you can give a cash donation to fuel the alcohol infused mayhem and to pay for the dance in the evening. Women are also known to throw change out of their 2nd story windows and roofs to quell the demonic groaning of the participants (no words are spoken while in mask) only pointing to palms for cash and non-human sounds. This lasts from 10 or 11 am until you can’t handle it anymore. I think I stayed until 4am or so…

 

New Years – This is quite a site to see in Ecuador. They have a tradition to burn the old year or “año viejo.” They accomplish this by making or buying life-sized or smaller dolls filled with powerful fireworks (such as dynamite for fishers) and they put them in the middle of the streets, generally in large piles so the flames look more impressive. Some of these dolls are the height of a two-story house… Every city does this, but I spent my New Years in the costa, where things are slightly more “happening” with the family of my then girlfriend Maria José. I am sure that if a low flying plane were to witness the spectacle it might be compared to city-wide rioting. I wll attach a couple of videos next time because “The File Type is not allowed to Upload” for some reason.

 

Couchsurfers, Couchsurfers – At the end of December right before Christmas time I had 2 Austrians come for a 2 day stay (Reinholdt and Kathi). They contacted me through the CS network asking politely if I could host them because they had heard no reply from any of the Cuenca surfers which is a popular tourist destination. They claimed to have a great time! Even though it was constantly raining as it is now as I type these words…We passed the time by taking a little tour of the village, cooking incredible food, they video-documented me giving health charlas (so I could see what I could improve on), we watched many movies, and exchanged pictures and stories of our travels. Damn, I wish I had more visitors!

 

Ooh, almost forgot to add that Karnaval is coming up soon! I hear it is quite a scene, 4 days of water/food concoction fights. Takes place the first weekend of March. Perhaps I won’t write about it TWO MONTHS or more after-the-fact.

 

I sincerely hope you all are well. I assure you that I am doing just fine.

Take care!

 

The Double Dose of Comatose – At times I really think that I am blessed living and working in such a diverse country such as Ecuador.  This is most likely one of the greatest places on the planet despite its little nuances.  I am also really thankful for the great, supportive bunch of volunteers, friends in other countries, my family and the family of my new girlfriend, Maria José.  They really get me through the tough times and give me new ánimo, a breath of fresh air to start work again rejuvenated like after an undisturbed sleep on a cool, relaxing rainy day.  Thanksgiving was two of those times.

A festive group of volunteers met up in Cuenca to indulge in excellent homemade food such as mashed potatoes, stuffing, pineapple pork roast (mouth is actually watering right now thinking about it), fresh baked German style bread, a vegetarian quiche, some pot of goodness made by a foreign volunteer (I do not have the skills to describe this one, my apologies), and the wine and cheese that I brought (along with a package of teriyaki beef jerky that my lovely family sent me from Illinois).  After dinner we decided to play the most American movie that we could find amongst the bootlegged $1 videos that are so common here.  We decided on Dances with Wolves, because it has it all…those Native Americans and American military power.  Hah, during intermission we turned it off because we were way too exhausted and called it an evening.  Well that was the FIRST Thanksgiving on the actual Thursday.

The Second Thanksgiving was thrown by the lovely family of Majo (Maria José).  This took place on a Sunday in the city of Guayaquil, the largest city in Ecuador.  Much of her extended family was there along with my good buddy BIG MIKE! (quite possibly one of the skinniest men on the planet), or Michael Close, and the Jackie Gelose, the Italian who can cook like a good Italian woman should who I shared a training group within the town of Cariacu.  This food was just as incredible – An entire turkey sautéed all night in aliño (which is a puree of garlic, onion, basil? And many more delightful things) and then it was basted all day with Coca Cola© (had to put that in that for legal purposes).  Coca Cola© may sound strange, but my goodness was it delicious, wasn’t even too sweet.  Jackie made the green bean casserole with an Ecua flair on top (instead of breaded, fried crispy onions, there were crispy, fried strings of potatoes – excellent substitute).  Other family members brought Ecuadorian dishes such as a mango fruit salad (next time he is going to add shrimp into the mix, can’t wait for that one).  I was honored to be chosen to do the “brindis,” which is the Spanish word for giving a toast.  I gave the best speech that I could muster in my poor Spanish thanking everyone there making US (pesky gringos) welcome into THEIR home and sharing OUR holiday with us.  Also, Jackie’s sangria was a big hit…never had it before with red wine, sprite and rum…try it some time.

¡No más SIDA, No más SIDA! – First off SIDA in Spanish is AIDS just in case you need clarity.  I was tasked with putting together a community march in honor of World AIDS Day which is December 1 of every year.  My march however was planned for the 7th, better late than never due to lack of materials from the Minesterio de Salud, I received them about 3 days late.  I wrote the required oficios (formal documents that you need to write to get ANYTHING done here in Ecuador) sending them to the Junta Parroquial, the surrounding schools and the Colegio.  They all seemed excited to participate but I was expecting blunders.  Everything turned out great though! Everyone wore red, made signs and posters and banners and the school kiddos brought red balloons.  It really was my first big success here in my site and it gave me much needed confidence.  After the march I gave a Rompecabeza charla (Rompecabeza translates to mind breaker, which is sort of a puzzle piecing together what HIV and AIDS stand for so they could get a better understanding of what was going on.  A charla is a non-formal education session that can take place in schools, community centers, in the street, wherever).  After I presented the town doctor gave his more in depth presentation to the colegio kids (the older group).  Great success it was!

A Taste of Invierno – What I have been fearing since my arrival…  The townspeople constantly talked about how rainy and obscure the 5 month rainy season is that ranges from December to April.  As you now know it is the middle of December and they sure were not lying.  As I sit here typing this in my room I am soothed by the sound of raindrops on the Subcentro tin roof (along with a little Mozart as well).  The fog rolls in daily around noontime and the darkness and rain commences.  The town is pure mud and you can barely see 10ft in front of you (note to self: find the rain boots that I probably left in the house of my host family).  The rain doesn’t really bother me, but the method on how my clothes will dry is another story…I’ll keep you posted on how I figure this rompecabeza out.  I also hear that at times no one will be able to leave because of mudslides which block the muddy, rocky road that leads me and the community out to pavement, internet and banking.  Interesting it shall be.

Drag Racing – Drunk Driving – Fuel Tanker Truckers: That is right.  Blows your mind doesn’t it?  When I was on the return trip to Gualleturo from Quito from our Reconnect Conference my bus had a slight delay just outside of the city that I take the bus into my town from.  Later on I found out that I had just missed a collision of two fuel tankers in the wee hours of the morning.  They had been drinking (a little) and decided to drag race down a straight away…the result was 4 deaths (two men in each truck) and  20,000 gallons of fuel spilled and consumed by fire on the highway.  I returned a few days later to photo-document the scene.

Well I think that is all I have at the moment, hope it wasn’t too boring.  Tune in next time for the tale of “The Return of Porky Muffin Top” and most likely some Christmas and New Years stories… Take care now, ya hear? and thanks for reading (if anyone even does) ;)

Until Next time.

Your Humble Narrator and Andariego,

Mitchi

I know that I have been off of the radar for a while….my apologies.  I have been recently riding an emotional rollercoaster that has finally stabilized and now life is very good.  In short, I checked myself before I wrecked myself.  I recently returned from our Peace Corps Reconnect, a week-long conference in which we were locked in a spiritual center for a week to obtain some more “training” and present our community diagnostics.  The food was great but the gates closed at 9pm…que bestia.  Oooh, one thing that I did not miss from Pre-Service Training was the never-ending PowerPoint presentations, or death by PowerPoint as a wise man once told me.  Seeing everyone from training again was refreshing though.  I was on emotional edge until the last day in which I finally mustered the strength to air my concerns to my program manager because then I had the feeling that I wouldn’t last very long in this new age Peace Corps.

Why you may ask?  So many things… but the main themes were my housing arrangement and visiting a city that has recently been put off-limits.  I was told at my site visit a month prior that where I wanted to live wasn’t exactly up to PC standards…The general rule is that you must live alone or with a host family for the entire two years.  I don’t believe that I could have done either to tell the truth.  I definitely would not like the solitude of a single room because I am sort of a social butterfly and my new host family needed silence around 8pm…  I also didn’t like locking myself in my room until I fell asleep.  And being in control of your own kitchen is a great feeling, something that I did not have at the house of my host family.  Anyway…I was cleared to live where I wanted!! With the Subcentro Staff.  And…I am now also allowed to travel to Guayaquil to visit a special lady friend once a month which is not a bad deal.   My spirits were finally uplifted for a longer lasting term…no longer did I have to live in fear, like I was always doing something wrong!

Which brings me to my next topic.  Making it hail… What the hell does this mean you may be asking yourself? Well let me explain.  It has to do with carefree, casi reckless attitude to raise the spirits on monthly or bi-weekly escapes from the ultra-isolated campo life.  The money of choice here in Ecuador is the golden Sacajawea coins and I make them fall from the heavens whenever I am in the right mood – like in Cuenca for the festivals hanging with Guayacas or pre and post Reconnect with training buddies.  I was always told that I have champaign taste on a beer budget by my parents…not much has changed it seems.

On a more serious note, I went to a Parroquia meeting this morning and it fueled some great ideas.  The Junta Parroquial serves 18 communities and the theme of the gathering was that they are now going to prioritize community needs, each community spokesman could only state ONE developmental desire…It took a visiting governmental economist to figure this out.  For example, One community wants a decent bridge built over a river that their vehicles can cross, another, latrines that do not overflow during the rainy season, another, a new roof for their dilapidated school, another, drinkable water, another, new flooring for the snack bar of the Colegio.  I have a feeling that most will not come through because budgeting is quite limited as I am told.  But if they give the damn Colegio snack bar a new floor first I am going to be real pissed…

The Peace Corps wants me to start sustainable projects.  My first goal is to install a water treatment system in the main town of Gualleturo.  I have the president of the Junta on board…all that is lacking is a little research on NGO’s and the data of the water which I can easily obtain from the president of the water (there is a president for everything here).  I also heard that a couple of schools would like a computer or two to familiarize the children on how to operate such technological marvels that seem to be running this world.  I believe that this can become a reality with a grant from USAID.  The Peace Corps also told me a main way to fundraise was through friends and family, but I realized that most of my friends and people in my social network are poor folk like myself… I don’t think a donation of $3.50 will really go too far here… My secondary project will be trying to get some public computers installed with internet in the Junta.   It would be nice to keep in touch with development projects, the main provincial government that visits once a year, and facebook of course.  ;) There is also an interest in starting a community bank, we shall see how this will develop.

Adventure time – I have to give you readers something to excite the imaginatory receptors.  Well, where to start… If you ever have to vaccinate vicious campo dogs for rabies, all I have to say is make sure they are well tied AND have an owner there to make sure their jaws do not get a hold of you…  I also saw an entire side of a mountain on FIRE… I have been awakened by a man with a recent stab wound by some rusty metal object by his wife (maybe being incoherently drunk on his part had something to do with it) What else?  I traveled for 17 or so hours on 4 buses and a taxi from my site to meet up with some friends, repair the boots and visit my host family in the north of Ecuador before training.  This was the first time that I really traveled by myself in Ecuador and it went surprisingly smooth if I must say so myself.  The first bus I took was sketch, I think I was placed on the worst bus on the fleet…good thing it was only a 9 hour excursion in the middle of the night…haha.  The taxi that I took to cross Quito was also a little sketch.  Since it was high traffic time we took some excellent side roads and he gave me a tour of basically the whole city…the barrios with very high robbery (in which stopped a couple of times to chit-chat and ask the destination of other cab seekers…what the hell guy!?), the colonial district and the famous Police Hospital where the Ecuadorian presidency was threatened not so long ago.  Not exciting enough…got it.  I went on a horseback ride once again with my lovely host family, this time they gave me the horse that likes to RUUUUUUUUUN. I literally thought that I couldn’t control this beast of burden especially when I was flopping around on the saddle and shouting my best Spanish curses, but I managed.  If running wasn’t enough, he also liked to haul ass up muddy sloped mountain paths…we nearly took a couple of spills as did the horse of my host sister.  Overall, it was an incredibly peaceful ride; I guess I shouldn’t really call this section adventure update…forgiveness please.  I can’t post everything that is going on of course due to good old fashioned government censorship!!

Ahh yes, I figured out the mystery of the bubble guts.  I actually had giardia and parasites, an infamous duo of sorts.  If you are not familiar with giardia, look it up.  The simple description is poop to mouth.  Somewhere along the line I ate some fecally contaminated food or drank some fecally contaminated water…which at all is not surprising due to extremely high levels of fecal contamination found in laboratory tests taken by the water inspector of the province.  One of the main reasons why water treatment is my main focus.

In short, I hope that you all enjoy such basic things that we all take for granted in the good ole US of A.  Infrastructure, Potable water, schools with roofs, hot showers! Etc…  I begin to learn to love my mother land more and more every month it seems.  Just remember that you have it great is all that I ask!!  But I must touch on the Ecuadorian health care system sometime…remind me will ya?? The US of A could also take some notes ;)

Take care and may the god of your choice bless you!  (yes I stole this from a Kinky Friedman campaign T-shirt)

 

The massacre – The local politician invited me to check out the community of Ger so I could get acquainted with the schools and people over there, “Claro que si, quiero ir!” I arrived at the office of the junta parroquial the next morning and couldn’t help but notice very large, armed policemen also there as well.  Odd, I thought.  The entire parroquia has three police men, and these men are not them.  Whatever.  Hopped in the truck with the politician and the police also filed in.  I sat crammed in the back squished against a policeman in body armor and a machine gun on the 30 minute or so drive to the community.  Amongst the chit chat I put together that the only survivor of the 72 people massacred in San Fernando, Mexico is from this small town.  The police were there to guard the lives of his family.  I wasn’t the only gringo on this excursion though.  Turns out a reporter from the BBC arrived slightly after me and was harassing anyone and everyone that would give a comment as a good reporter should.  I got to meet the family members of the survivor and also the alcalde of Cañar, not a bad little trip.

The Subcentro – My new headquarters.  I was scared at first getting along so great with my counterpart and finding out that he was leaving at the end of two weeks.  Dammit, I hope that I get a decent replacement.  Turns out I did, I spent all day helping him out so he wouldn’t be alone on his first real day of work.  Really nice and promising young guy, same age as me as well.  Helped his parents arrange his room and they invited me to come to Cuenca and stay with them whenever I want.  Awesome.  Cuenca is an amazing little city full of foreigners and diversion.

What else about the subcentro?  I am moving in soon and this place needs a TON of work.  It is running low on meds, the bathroom doesn’t have water running to it, there is a nice rat that scurried by me earlier and jumped in a kitchen drawer, it has an airshow of flies daily and there are chickens and garbage out front.  I happen to love it though because it is quaint and I get along great with the subcentro staff.  My room is coming along little by little and I have a spare bed in my room in case anyone ventures to come visit.  Yes, that is an open invitation.

Oh Bubble Guts – Why do I insist on eating everything that is put in front of me?  Partly because I love food and partly because I refuse to be a fancy boy, a dandy if you will.  I have never had so much diarreah in my life.  I might as well have broken a world record for most gas passed within twenty four hours.  Every twenty minutes last night, I kid you not, I had the most atrocious gas.  It woke me up throughout the night.  I still have it as I type.  I would like to thank the power of incense to make my room smell like a room again.

Geez, I almost forgot to mention about the 4 days of festivities in Gualleturo.  I take everything that happens for granted lately.  Nothing really surprises me anymore; I just find it all to be normal.  Wild horse riding in a field! Normal.  A four storie tower of fireworks! Normal.  Dressing up in Ecuadorian traditional clothing and participating in a dance contest amongst real indigenous people! Normal.  All I have to say is that these Ecuadorians don’t mess around with their parties, I think this is why I get along so great with them.  I also gained much street cred in the folkloric dance contest, very glad I did it.

Well, I just posted quite a bit.  Hope that you enjoy some of these little stories, I definitely can’t depict what life is really like here in words.  Therefore, I encourage you to visit and see for yourself.

Until next time,

It is quite difficult to recount all that has happened since my last post a month or so ago. Try my best I will…

The goodbye – I went on one last epic horseback ride to the top of a nearby mountain with my host family to search for a lost toro bravo.  The search was of course futile, but the views were great even though volcan cayambe was covered by clouds.  Took some great fotos with the host family and had one last bonding experience before I rode out of their life in the back of a pickup, the same as I arrived two months prior.  In retrospect, I really miss the times I had in training and my family.   I hope to see them again in the near future.

Graduation – yep.  Survived the Peace Corps training and received a certificate.  Yay!  Only comment I have here is that the Ambassador’s hot tub is incredible and I was finally able to unleash the dancing machine that evening.  7pm-4am. Oh how I miss you Austin dance parties, especially the infamous Blue House parties.

The big move – what a mess.  Traveling with a my backcountry pack on the back, regular size school pack on the front, a suitcase and a large speedo bag in each hand.  Took the night bus.  Overslept.  Ended up just one city too far.  Time to backtrack.  Made it to the hub city just fine.  Time to take a rental truck to site.  $50!?  Piss off truck driver man.  I shall wait in the street until 2pm when the bus to my town arrives, thanks (it is currently 8am).  Caught a good spell of luck and one of my friends was driving the bus to my site that day.  He really helped me out greatly… stored my luggage under the bus under lock, took me to eat breakfast and let me know where to find things in the city.  Didn’t even charge me for the trip.  Made it to my site with everything but my sunglasses and a pair of pants that one of my buddies mistook for his own in quito.

First week excursions in Gualleturo – Dental checkups in a couple of surrounding communities of the Subcentro.  Gulag Bajo was a nice hour hike away.  Nestled above a never-ending sea of clouds.  Absolutely beautiful, my favorite view in Ecuador thus far.  The school children were great and receptive after a few awkward, silent, staring moments.  They opened up and wanted me to teach them a little English which I did to kill time until their respective checkups.  Very intelligent.  Community number two to visit was Campo Alegre.  This was a three hour hike all uphill.  Did I mention that the dentist and I got lost at least three times?  This is what happens when you trek through mountain jungles following paths in which you have to crawl.  We arrived at the school after it was let out, but we managed to rustle up a handful of nearby kiddos.  I brought some fotos of the USofA to entertain them while they waited to get their checkups.  Great kids as well, but my goodness were they filthy.  Definitely will be giving some charlas on hygiene there in the near future.

Yeah, too long and boring.  Got it.  Time to post another blog.

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